A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Gothenburg has reportedly found that antioxidants may actually increase the risk of some forms of cancer. Volkan Sayin, et al., “Antioxidants Accelerate Lung Cancer Progression in Mice,” Science Translational Medicine, January 29, 2014.

Researchers analyzed tumor progression in two groups of mice with lung cancer. One group received additional antioxidants in their diet in the form of vitamin E and acetylcysteine, two common antioxidants. These were given at levels equivalent to what a human would get from ordinary multivitamins. The second group received no additional antioxidants in their diet. The researchers found that the mice that received extra antioxidants had three times as many tumors and died twice as fast as the mice that did not receive additional antioxidants. The mice that received additional antioxidants also developed bigger tumors than the control mice. The investigators then confirmed their findings using human lung cancer cells.

Noting that acetylcysteine is commonly used by patients who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) because it can dissolve mucus, lead researcher Martin Bergo said that the findings may have important implica- tions for this patient group. “It is too early to give recommendations regarding the use of acetylcysteine in COPD patients, but our study clearly points to a need for new research on this topic,” he said.

Study co-author Per Lindahl warned that people should not stop taking antioxidants based on the team’s findings and stressed that the study does not analyze the risk of developing cancer, but instead examines how antioxi- dants may speed up progression of cancer that is already present. The team reportedly plans to conduct further research to determine how antioxidants affect other types of cancer and to see whether antioxidants contribute to the development of cancer in healthy mice. See HealthDay.com, January 29, 2014; MedicalNewsToday, January 31, 2014.